There’s a vast array of excellent Portuguese wines available at all price points, so it wasn’t easy to come up with this list. But, here it is, my top 6 picks for Douro Valley wines you won’t want to miss.
1. Quinta da Touriga-Chã Douro Red 2013
This property belongs to one of the Douro’s most legendary wine families – the descendants of Adriano Ramos Pinto. The estate is planted mainly with Touriga Nacional after years of intense study of each of the Douro’s grape varieties and the different techniques of planting suited for each variety. The predominance of Touriga Nacional here, in turn, gave name to the property itself. The grandson is now running this unique estate and creating its wines. This wine seems to pay homage to his father for its muscular and balanced character. Very perfumed, with bucolic notes of different wildflowers and berries. Its tannins are silky and the whole wine is intensely harmonious.
2. Quinta Vale D. Maria Vinha do Rio Douro Red 2014
Quinta Vale D. Maria Vinha do Rio is one of the Douro’s “Grand Crus”. It comes from the Quinta Vale D. Maria by the Torto river, one of the Douro river’s main tributaries. The oldest vines are over 100 years of age in a mixed field planting of 29 grape varieties. True to the convictions of Cristiano van Zeller, its winemaker, these grape varieties are all harvested, foot trodden and fermented together in granite stone tanks. It’s an intensely aromatic wine, with many different layers of fruit. It has a seductive calling for every sip, as the wine is in a permanent mutation, just like nature itself, always upholding the distinctive Douro character.
3. Quinta do Crasto Vinha da Ponte 2012
Quinta do Crasto sits on a rolling hilltop overlooking the Douro River. This venerable property has two unique vineyards that produce, only in exceptional years, one of the Douro’s greatest examples of the fruit and botanicals expressed in its singular grape varieties. This vineyard is located close to an old bridge at Quinta do Crasto, and therefore it is called “Vinha da Ponte” (“Bridge Vineyard”). In 2012, the Douro saw cool temperatures which allow for these very old vines to concentrate their wise growth capacity and produce the finest fruit there is. Wines are lighter than in warm years and allow for the expression of fresh wild berries, cherries, raspberries, and rockrose. Very round and structured tannins, intense and elegant at the same time – it is safe to say this is a Douro Valley classic.
4. Charme Douro Tinto 2013
Dirk Niepoort is one of the most remarkable Douro winemakers you will come across. He is one of its greatest explorers as Dirk keeps finding unique vineyards around the Douro Valley where he believes he has found a treasure for the birth of a new style of wine. Charme is the Douro’s “Pinot Noir”, but only in style, as it is made from a fresh old vineyard, composed of 70 to 100-year-old vines of more than 20 varieties. Its aromas include tealeaf (also one of Dirk’s greatest passions) sweet cherries, earthy tones such as schist after the first summer rains and on this particular 2013, touches of lime peel.
5. Poças Old Tawny Colheita Port 1997
This wine gives me energy. Just the ginger, toffee and caramel sweet notes that come through as I smell the wine bring me a sense of warmth – the type given by sunshine, not the fireplace. As you sip it, it’s fresh and lively, so young in its 20 years of age! And definitely a great value.
6. Dow’s Vintage Port 1980
When choosing wines from the Douro Valley, I can’t go without picking a Vintage Port. Dow’s is one of my favourite Port Houses. It characteristically shows a drier character than most other Ports and it’s an explosion of prunes and figs, sprinkled with cinnamon and black pepper and accompanied by dark chocolate. The 1980 Vintage Port is not a classic vintage, but still has been one of Dow’s most recognised years for its impressive evolution in bottle!
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An on-site tour will introduce you to the wine and Port-making process. Manuel and Teresa, your local ambassadors, can recommend several great Quintas for you to visit.